Xuan paper – Xuan Zhi 宣纸 – takes its name from XuanZhou, the river port from where this paper was originally sold, and transported by rivers and canals to the main towns of ancient China. XuanZhou is now a district of XuanCheng 宣城 which literally means Xuan City.
In the West Xuan paper is sometimes misleadingly described as rice paper. It does contain rice straw, however the distinctive ingredient is tree bark: the highest quality papers contain 70-85% bark and only a small proportion of rice straw. Xuan paper is therefore made in the villages of 泾县 Jīng Xiàn (Jing County), a mountainous area home to the key ingredients: pure fresh mountain water streams and the 青檀 qing tan – Pteroceltis tatarinowii or Blue Sandalwood tree.
The whole tree can be put to good use: the bark is used for paper, the wood makes good timber, and the berries and oil are used in the making of ink.
Normally a non-destructive harvesting process is used where 2-year old branches are harvested for bark, after which the tree continues to grow new branches.
The production process is also now highly regulated and controlled to ensure that standards are maintained – including environmental standards – the clean water is one of the key ingredients!
Raw Materials at Inkston Workshop
We use a wide range of natural raw materials to process our papers. Here are some photos of how these materials look like.
How is Xuan paper made?
Our photos below from the paper workshops give you an idea of how the Xuan Paper is made.
First the bark and raw materials are prepared:
A slurry is mixed of the spring water and fibres, and a sheet of paper is collected on a screen. (There are also two-person screens for the largest sheet sizes).
The sheet of paper can then be lifted off the screen and placed onto a stack of wet papers.
The papers are individually dried on these large heated metal plates, then they are trimmed and packed into packs of 100 sheets.